BMW expecting Mercedes to be top seller during early 2012

BMW says Mercedes-Benz will likely be the nation's top selling luxury brand during the early part of 2012.

BMW is easily on pace to dethrone Lexus as the United State's best-selling luxury brand by year's end, but the German automaker says it expects to lose that title in early 2012.

That threat won't come from a resurgent Lexus but rather from cross-country rival Mercedes-Benz, the automaker's U.S. head told the Detroit Free Press. BMW currently holds a 5,182 unit sales lead over Mercedes-Benz.

Although BMW's Jim O'Donnell expects to the brand to end 2012 as the U.S.' favorite luxury brand, the executive concedes that a fresher lineup will give Mercedes the early lead in 2012.

"In the first quarter of next year, I would say Mercedes" will be No. 1, he said. "Mercedes going into 2012 in the first quarter will be in a strong position. Over the course of the year, we still should be ahead of Mercedes."

Mercedes will be launching a freshened version of its C-Class later this year, which will likely outsell BMW's aging 3-Series. However, BMW will launch its next-generation 3-Series in April 2012, which should move the automaker back to the top spot by the end of 2012.

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